Sunday, September 27, 2009

TITLE INSURANCE IN THAILAND AND OTHER ASIAN DESTINATIONS

Summary

Up until recent times, the concept of private or individual land ownership was practically unheard of. In the ‘Middle Ages’ it was only the kings, Lords and the privileged few that were able to proclaim ownership to lands that had been conquered.
Analysis

Land, unlike personal possessions that can become obsolete, and lose their value, is immobile, and by comparison, indestructible; therefore, anything associated with land and its control became a symbol of power and wealth
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The feudal lords that were appointed by the various monarchies’ to occupy and work these lands were granted the privilege by way of licenses. However, these lands were subject to the king's first rights, as well as taxes on the land and taxes on the produce.
Over time, the feudal lords that wished to maintain ownership of these worked lands, developed methods of obtaining conveyances from the monarchy that eventually allowed the property to be inherited by their beneficiaries, rather than revert it back to the monarchy. However, there always has and always will be vulnerabilities in relation to land ownership!
Prior to the advent of ‘Title Insurance’, the conveyance of property did not include any form of guarantee or insurance. A purchaser had virtually no guarantees that the property he was buying was even owned by the person that was selling it! And, even though lawyers would render their opinion of title based upon a title ‘abstract,’ there were no assurances protecting the buyer from fraudulent conveyances or undisclosed encumbrances on a property?
What is ‘Title Insurance’?
‘Title Insurance’ is a contractual obligation between the buyer of land/property and the ‘Title Insurance’ company (insurer), whereby the title insurer, in exchange for a premium payment, provides protection (effective as of the date the title insurer issues the policy) against future losses that might result from a variety of possible title defects or encumbrances.
Why Do You Need ‘Title Insurance?’
As a ‘Property Developer’ in South East Asia, owning real estate is one of the most precious values of freedom in the civilized world, and by having the assurance that the property you are buying will be yours, other than your mortgage/finance company, no other entity should have any claims or restrictions against your property.
‘Title Insurance’ eliminates any risks and losses associated with faults in title from an event that occurred before you owned the property! And as a ‘Property Developer it is essential you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your clients.
What is a ‘Title Search’?
Part of the cost of ‘Title Insurance’ includes a title search, in which the title insurer conducts a detailed examination of the historical, public records concerning the property. These records include deeds, court records, property and name indexes and many other public documents. The purpose of the search is to verify the seller’s right to transfer property ownership and to discover any defects or encumbrances on the title. A title search should show all title defects and encumbrances as well as judgments, liens and other restrictions (i.e., unpaid taxes, outstanding loans, judgments against the seller, land-use restrictions, etc.).
On a seller’s point of view his ‘Title Insurance’ policy does not protect a future buyer; as any of the above defects could have occurred during the seller’s ownership. A new title search will need to be conducted by the new purchaser in order to protect his ownership rights when he acquires the property.
How Does ‘Title Insurance’ Protect a Buyer?
‘Title Insurance’ protects a purchaser and his lender from losses resulting from claims against a purchaser’s ownership of the property. It is unique as far as it provides a purchaser with coverage for unforeseen problems or hidden risks associated with errors, forgery, unpaid taxes, that can jeopardize a purchaser’s ownership rights, and as a ‘Property Developer’ in South East Asia, it is essential that you protect the interests of your clients and your company.
Examples of ‘Title Insurance’ coverage includes:

* Protection from financial loss due to covered claims against the buyers title
* Payment of legal costs associated with covered claims
* Payment of successful claims against a buyers title

When considering ‘Title Insurance’ a buyer should be aware of possible exclusions and exceptions such as:

* An unrecorded title defect
* Condemned land
* Building and zoning ordinance violations
* Payments required (except for legal access rights) because the deed failed to provide rights of use to adjacent land, streets, alleys or waterways
* Conveyance of title irregularities arising from a deceased person’s estate, a bankruptcy estate or trust
* Restrictive covenants limiting the use of the property
* Discrepancies, conflicts or shortages in area, boundary lines encroachments, protrusions or overlapping improvements
* Right of usage claims arising if the property is on or near a body of water, river or stream
* Adverse possession claims from “parties in possession” of all, or a portion of the property

Conclusion
When you purchase a property, you buy property insurance to protect yourself financially in case something happens to the property or its contents. However, property insurance won't protect your financial interests if a matter arises regarding the legal title of the land on which your property is situated. Unless a property owner possesses a clear title, he risks losing his property and the land under it. This is where ‘Title Insurance’ comes in and why it should be a absolute requirement for any foreign owned ‘Property Developer’ in South East Asia
Claims on title to a property can often relate back to events many years ago. These range from undisclosed easements, tax liens, or lack of due process in upgrades to title. Claims can be issued by other homeowners, business interests, government agencies, even the land department itself.
‘Title Insurance’ provides an indemnity up to the full purchase price of the property against all losses arising from errors, omissions or fraud which may affect the title to the property at the time of purchase. Should a dispute arise, the title insurer will defend the claim, in court if necessary, and indemnify the owner to the full value of the land and the property, plus any necessary legal fees.
The ‘Title Insurance’ cover provides you with a full financial indemnity against any claims against the title of your property by any person, providing you with absolute peace of mind that your investment is secure. You can be assured that you will be able to benefit from your investment freely and without risk of disturbance resulting from fraud, forgery, a weak ownership trail, and previous conflicts.
There is no single better way to protect the value of your property than with ‘Title Insurance’!
As a ‘Property Developer’ or purchaser in South East Asia, it is your corporate responsibility to secure the interests of your clients and your company, by protecting yours and their property with ‘Title Insurance!’
For further information on the benefits of ‘Title Insurance’ for ‘Property Developers’ in South East Asia, please complete the enquiry form, and include your full contact details and exact requirements.
‘Title Insurance’ - Don't Invest In Property Without It!
The information set out above is for guidance only. No representation is made in respect of this information. Policyholders should carefully read their policy. If there is any inconsistency between this information and the policy, then the terms of the policy prevail.
www.forbeslebrock.com

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ten Things You Should Know about Title Insurance

1. You have the right to choose your title company. In an industry contaminated by affiliated business arrangements, kickbacks and other referral incentives, the Internet returns the power to the people. Don't let your mortgage lender or real estate agent steer you toward their preferred title company without doing your homework first. You could save thousands of dollars – yes, thousands – by selecting a title company on your own.

2. It's easy to save money on title services. Ask for quotes from several title companies and compare them with your real estate agent's or mortgage lender's recommendation. By shopping around and asking about discounts, a lot of times the home buyer can save thousands on closing costs.

3. Your mortgage lender will require title insurance. This isn't one of those cases where you can skirt the extra expense and hope for the best. If you are borrowing money for a real estate investment, your mortgage lender will want to make sure it's protected. Title insurance protects your money if it turns out the seller didn't legally have the right to sell the property in the first place. At minimum, you will be required to purchase a lender's policy. An owner's policy, while recommended, is not required.

4. Title insurance is a one-time fee. Unlike other types of insurance, there is no ongoing premium to pay for title insurance. Your mortgage lender is required to provide you with a Good Faith Estiamte for closing costs, including title insurance, and factor those costs into the initial disclosure. This three-minute video explains closing costs in laymen's terms: Closing Costs Explained Visually.

5. Ask about "standard" title insurance vs. "enhanced" title insurance. Some title companies push enhanced title insurance without providing the consumer with a proper disclosure that a less expensive standard policy is available. For many home buyers a standard policy will suffice. It costs less, too. Compare standard vs. enhanced title insurance, and make sure to ask your title company what types of insurance products they offer. Talk with your lender and settlement attorney to determine what policy is appropriate for your home investment.

6. Who pays for title insurance depends on where you live. Sometimes it's the buyer who pays, sometimes it's the seller. And sometimes the cost is split between the two. In the Washington Metro Area, for example, title insurance premiums are generally paid by the home buyer. It's important to note that title insurance is regulated largely on the state level. If you're conducting a little Internet research, be sure to use regional qualifiers in your search (e.g. state, county, etc.).

7. Some closing costs are fixed while others are variable. The cost of your title insurance policy and government recordation fees are dependent on the purchase price of your home, and the bulk of settlement costs are typically paid by the home buyer. However, the seller doesn't get off scot-free. Seller fees include a fee for mortgage release procurement and deed preparations. The settlement fee is often split between buyer and seller. Home buyer fees include a title examination/abstractor fee, location survey fee and a fee to process paperwork. A title company may charge additional fees unique to each transaction, but the extent of the fees should be disclosed up front.

8. Settlement costs factor into your loan's Annual Percentage Yield (APR). Home buyers should know the settlement process can be delayed due to recent changes to the Truth in Lending Act (effective Aug. 1, 2009). If the actual APR differs from the estimated APR by more than 0.125 percent, your mortgage lender must issue a new initial disclosure that reflects the accurate rate and wait a minimum of 3 business days to close the deal. To avoid surprises at the closing table, invest five minutes of your time at the beginning of the transaction to obtain a guaranteed quote online for settlement services.

9. If you're planning to refinance, your lender will require a title insurance policy. There are plenty of reasons to refinance such as reducing your interest rate and mortgage payment or consolidating debt. While a new owner's policy may not be necessary if you plan to refinance, your mortgage lender will still want to ensure the investment is protected, so you will likely need to purchase a new lender's title insurance policy. Here is an example of a title insurance rate card for a refinance.

10. Referral fees increase the cost of title insurance. The Government Accountability Office recently reported that 5 percent of title insurance premiums went toward insurance claims. A far greater percentage (some reports claim 50 percent or more), went to real estate agents and mortgage lenders for referral fees. This practice is illegal and punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine, yet it's very difficult to regulate. Home buyers' best protection against exorbitant title costs is education, simply knowing they have the right to choose their title company, asking about discounts and learning about what options are available . Not all title companies shell out referral fees, or kickbacks In fact, some title companies cut out the middle man and credit the home buyer instead when he/she orders settlement services online directly from them.

*NOTE: This list is in no way meant to be taken as legal advice, it is meant to provide general information about title insurance, courtesy of Federal Title & Escrow Company, located in Washington, D.C. Reach out to a title company in your area for more complete information.

Nikki Smith
Marketing Director
Federal Title & Escrow Company
Washington, DC
202-274-1517

Contact Nikki Smith Contact Nikki Smith
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Monday, August 3, 2009

Title insurance is a wise choice with troubled builder

Q. My husband and I are buying a repossessed, foreclosed house from a bank. It is a new house, and we know for a fact that many of the people who worked on it or supplied vinyl, etc., have not been paid by the builder and no one knows where he is now.

We are closing on the house this week, paying all cash.

The man who put a very expensive retaining wall on the property told us he was coming after whoever buys the property. We have been assured by our Realtor that he can't do that and the bank is giving us "clear title." Somehow that just doesn't convince me. We don't understand one paragraph in the contract that states what we will be responsible for. Is it true we cannot be held responsible, and should we buy title insurance?

A. You may not have anything to worry about, but still.

I'm sure your real estate agent is good at what he or she does, but that's not where you should look for legal information. Is the agent ready to back that up with a written promise to pay any bills you might end up responsible for? Is the bank?

Take all your documents, including that paragraph you don't understand, to a lawyer who specializes in real estate, and do it immediately. And yes, in any event, get title insurance in place before you part with your money.

Q. This past summer my daughter and her boyfriend purchased a house. For income tax purposes do they split the interest and taxes? Or can they determine who would benefit the most and one or the other claims the deduction?

A. Assuming they're both on the title and the mortgage, each is liable for the bills. The rule is that each may take as a deduction whatever he or she actually pays.

Q. You wrote that even if you send in extra money to reduce the principal owed, you must still make every monthly payment.

In the 1970s I paid an extra $100 a month on my mortgage. It reduced the principal by my prepayment amount. I was almost a year ahead of my payments and then the bank let me skip payments for almost a year. Of course they made extra interest while I wasn't paying.

It was OK then as long as the total extra that you had paid in was more than what you should have paid all those months. What has changed?

A. I'm interested in your experience, but I don't think most lenders would go along with it today. I'll bet you were dealing with a local lender. These days, most mortgages are packaged in uniform groups, bought and sold many times and owned by large financial institutions. Even with a mortgage that was still locally owned, modern computers wouldn't be set up to handle the arrangement you made in the '70s.

Q. I had everything in place for a short sale on my home. The buyer had put down a large cash deposit. At the last minute the buyer changed his mind, and I was left high and dry. The real estate agent handling the sale said the mortgage company wouldn't consider another bid offer. We had no choice but to go to foreclosure. I didn't even receive an apology or an explanation from anyone! Do we have any action we can take against the agent?

A. You can certainly consult your own real estate lawyer to find out if you have a valid claim against the buyer. I can't judge from here whether he had any legal justification for walking away.

I suspect your only claim against the broker might be if he or she wrongfully released the deposit without the written consent of both parties.

Q. How long do you have to live in a home before you sell it to avoid paying capital gains?

A. The home sellers exclusion allows you to take up to $250,000 profit (twice that for a married couple filing jointly) with no federal capital gains tax due. It's available if the place has been your main home for at least two of the five years before the sale. (If you'd been there for the two years just before the sale, that is enough.)

The only other requirement is that you can't use this tax break more than once (by selling multiple homes) in any two-year period read more

L and E announces new title insurance provider

London & European has signed a deal with Hannover Re subsidiary Inter Hannover for the firm to be the exclusive provider of L&E’s title insurance.

Inter Hannover will underwrite L&E’s title insurance business as part of a four-year rolling contract.

Nick Parr, managing director of Inter Hannover, says: “Our strategy is always to look for lines of business outside the mainstream where we feel there is a market opportunity, and title insurance fits perfectly.

“In L&E we have a partner which is an established authority in the field and has a solid book of existing clients as well as a healthy appetite to grow profitably.

“We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with them.”

Christopher Taylor, chief executive of L&E, says: “Inter Hannover is an entrepreneurial business which has the ability to spot an opportunity in a specialist sector and the vision to realise its potential.

“It’s no secret that the property market is depressed at the moment, but title insurance is an important tool in mitigating risk and can actually help ease lenders capital adequacy requirements.

“Inter Hannover takes a non-conservative attitude to recognise the potential in the current climate and appreciates the benefits that a longer term approach to the sector can bring.

“We are delighted to be working with Inter Hannover and to bringing their stability and http://www.mortgagestrategy.co.uk

Friday, July 17, 2009

A.M. Best Withdraws Ratings of Old Republic General Title Insurance Corporation Due to Merger

A.M. Best Co. has withdrawn the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and issuer credit rating (ICR) of “a+” and assigned an NR-5 (Not Formally Followed) to the FSR and an “nr” to the ICR of Old Republic General Title Insurance Corporation (Old Republic General), a former affiliate of Old Republic National Title Insurance Company (ORNTIC) (Minneapolis, MN).

Effective second quarter of 2009, Old Republic General was merged into ORNTIC, which is a member of the Old Republic Title Insurance Group (Minneapolis, MN).

The Old Republic Title Insurance Group and its members have an FSR of A (Excellent) and ICRs of “a+”, and the ratings are unchanged. The outlook for the FSR is stable, while the outlook for the ICRs is negative.

The FSR and ICRs above apply to Old Republic Title Insurance Group and its following members:

  • American Guaranty Title Insurance Company
  • Mississippi Valley Title Insurance Company
  • Old Republic National Title Insurance Company

For Best’s Credit Ratings, an overview of the rating process and rating methodologies, please visit www.ambest.com/ratings.

The principal methodologies used in determining these ratings, including any additional methodologies and factors that may have been considered, can be found at www.ambest.com/ratings/methodology.

Founded in 1899, A.M. Best Company is a global full-service credit rating organization dedicated to serving the financial and health care service industries, including insurance companies, banks, hospitals and health care system providers. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance Rules New Mexico Title Insurance Rates to Increase 10.7 Percent Effective

HOUSTON, Jul 01, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance announced June 30, 2009, that effective August 1, 2009, real estate title insurance premiums would rise by 10.7 percent overall. Additionally, the remittance rates from title agencies to underwriters increased from 19 percent to 20 percent for residential properties. A new rate schedule has yet to be released.

This ruling was based on findings of pre-filed testimony, direct testimony, facts of law and a rate hearing held in November 2008 and a final information hearing in the first week of June 2009. Testimony was received from consumer, regulatory and industry sources, and the New Mexico Attorney General's Office on behalf of consumers.

The findings stated, "The Superintendent has the responsibility to promulgate the premium rates of title insurers and title insurance agents for title insurance policies and the percentage of premium to be retained by title insurers. Premium rates promulgated by the superintendent shall not be excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory and shall contain an allowance permitting a profit that is not unreasonable in relation to the riskiness of the business of title insurance."

"After several years of increasing expenses, rising claims and declining real estate prices that reduce revenue, we are pleased with the findings of the New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance," said Mike Skalka, president, Stewart Title Guaranty Company. "This increase will provide the financial input necessary to properly reduce risks inherent in real estate transfers and to insure the results of that work and maintain the necessary reserves and underwriter strength to defend policyholders and pay future claims. New Mexico title consumers can be assured their real estate ownership is protected by their title policies."

"Good news for consumers, the regulators in the non-rate portion of the findings adopted the New Mexico Land Title Association's proposal to shorten the number of standard boiler-plate exceptions on everyone's title commitment by one-third in order to create a title policy that was less complex, more transparent, and offering consumers greater protection," said Stephen J. Rhodes, Vice President and New Mexico Underwriting Counsel for Stewart Title Guaranty Company.

"The actions and leadership of the New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance are indicative of the critical recognition and importance of maintaining strength, liquidity and the ultimate protection of consumer's real estate investments," said Malcolm S. Morris, chairman and co-chief executive officer for Stewart Information Services Corp. "The home represents the major store of wealth for more than half of American households. We congratulate the Superintendent's efforts in protecting the ownership of their real estate holdings, in maintaining underwriter strength and growing surplus."

"We believe these results are leading indicators of other states' current reviews of title insurance industry and the need to assure consumers of their ownership rights in real property," added Morris. "In non-regulated states, Stewart has been actively increasing our title rates. Critical in these rulings is the recognition of market cycles and the need to maintain a strong title industry throughout economic cycles." read more www.marketwatch.com

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Protecting your interests. The basics of title insurance

If you’re planning to buy a home, the topic of title insurance will likely surface in one of the many discussions you’ll have with your Realtor or seller.

Like most types of insurance, title insurance is better to have and not need, than need and not have. But what is it, why do you need it, and how does it work?

What is title insurance?

Essentially, title insurance is a specialized insurance policy that protects your mortgage lender against mistakes made in a title search. If you fall in love with a home and there’s not a clear title to it, title insurance protects the bank – and you – if there’s a problem. A clear title means you’ll be able to occupy and use the property the way you want, and that you’re able to sell or pledge your property as security for a loan.

There are generally two types of title insurance: lender’s and owner’s title insurance. The lender’s policy is usually based on the dollar amount of your loan and protects the lender’s interests in the property against a problem with the title. The policy coverage decreases each year and goes away as the loan is paid off.

As its name suggests, the homeowner buys owner’s title insurance, which is in the amount of the real estate purchase, for a one-time fee at closing and lasts as long as you own or have an interest in the property. Owner’s title insurance fully protects the homeowner in the event that there’s a problem with the title that wasn’t discovered during the title search. This type of insurance also pays for any legal fees involved in defending a claim to your title. Think of owner’s title insurance as helping to protect your equity, your investment in a home.

A safeguard: just in case

Title insurance is a safeguard against loss arising from hazards and defects already existing in the title. While claims on title insurance are rare compared to other types of insurance, they still happen and can be a big legal mess to fix.

For example, one of the most common title insurance claims is for the cost of back property taxes that the title company missed in researching a sale. Or there’s not a clear title to the house, especially in cases of divorce. These examples might sound minor, but they can cost thousands in fees without title insurance.

Buying a new home and think there’s a clear title? Many consumers think they’re the first owner if they’re building a home on a lot, but it’s just as likely there were prior owners of the land. A title search will uncover any existing liens, and a survey can determine the boundaries of the property you’re buying for your new house.

Getting the most value

The cost of title insurance depends on the value of your property. In Texas, title insurance rates are set by the Texas Department of Insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute and Insure.com, here are some tips to consider when buying title insurance:

If you’re buying a pre-owned home or are in a buyer’s market, ask the seller to pay for your coverage. It can’t hurt, and it might just save you lots of green. You might have heard the adage that everything’s negotiable, and title insurance falls into that category.

Ask about inflation coverage. In the case of owner’s coverage, as the value of the home rises, so does the amount of your protection.

Ask about extended coverage. Title insurance policies may exclude coverage in the event of lot-line debates, unrecorded mechanics liens, and easement problems. Extended coverage can provide protection against such claims.

If you buy your own policy in addition to your lender’s policy, check it for exceptions that may leave you with less protection than you want.

To find out more about title insurance, ask your Texas Realtor.

You can also visit TexasRealEstate.com – the online source for consumer-friendly information about real estate in the Lone Star State.

–Art Rolader, chairman of the Arlington Board of Realtors

www.star-telegram.com

Title insurance has value

Fraudulent activity has escalated from cheque-writing scams to identity theft to actually stealing your home right out from under you.

What many homeowners don't realize is that title insurance could prevent or assist in correcting fraudulent activity.

For a one-time fee (that in many cases works out to less than the annual premium for an average homeowner's insurance policy), title insurance protects a purchaser against anything that may hinder clear possession of the property.

This coverage will pass to family members, as in the case of an inheritance.

Title insurance is purchased when title is conveyed. It is usually acquired through the lawyer handling the transfer of ownership, and actually may eliminate the need for thorough title searches.

It is also no-fault insurance so that if a problem arises, you simply make a claim, unlike the traditional process of having to prove negligence on the part of the lawyer conducting the searches.

Title insurance ensures clear title, but it also:

- Covers undischarged liens or mortgages that may go back many years, or have been lost in the land registry system

- Covers fraudulent mortgages placed on a property unbeknownst to the owner. The average case of real estate title fraud costs the victim $300,000; the average credit card fraud in Canada is $1,200.

A criminal will typically do one of the following:

- Forge property transfer deed

- Register title to the property in his or her name

- Forge a discharge of the home's existing mortgage and then borrow against clear title

- Cover up unpaid taxes or utilities

- Hide encroachments on a neighbouring property, or build problematic renos outside municipal bylaw or setback requirements

- It also provides for any changes to a property where appropriate permits are not obtained. Situations like these can cost considerable amounts of money to rectify, even before the legal bills begin to pile up. read more www.nationalpost.com

A Very Strange Divergence in Title Insurance

This is one of the few times I'd like to have ready access to analyst reports. I am completely boggled by the massive divergence among the two title insurance companies we own. While both faltered badly once interest rates started to rise (hurting mortgage applications and by transitive theory, titles), First American (FAF) has fought back to its 200 day moving average while Fidelity National Financial (FNF) has continued down at a nearly 45 degree angle, even as Treasuries have rallied here the past 5 sessions buffering the rise in mortgage rates.

Granted, the latter is more a pure play on title insurance, but this is one serious variance. There must be something going on specific to FNF and "someone" obviously knows "something" - but I definitely do not know what it is. On valuation I'd like to add here, even if its a very busted chart, but it just continued to falter almost on a daily basis and make new lows. In fact, it is lower than it was at any point in the Jan-early March 2009 selloff. I don't think almost any other stocks can make that claim.

Disclosure: Long both in fund, scratching head furtively
http://seekingalpha.com

Friday, June 12, 2009

AAA Insurance Named as Title Rights Sponsor of The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at O’Reilly Raceway Park

O’Reilly Raceway Park and AAA Insurance officials announced today that AAA Insurance has been named as the title rights sponsor of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at O’Reilly Raceway Park. The official race title will now be the AAA Insurance 200. Length of the contract will be for two years.

The race will take place on July 24th and is one night of racing that will take place during three exciting nights of racing during Kroger SpeedFest. The AAA Insurance 200 features 200-laps of tight action packed racing featuring drivers of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series such as Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday and last years champion Johnny Benson.

“We’re proud and very excited to bring this event to AAA members, AAA Insurance customers, and all race fans in central Indiana,” said Steve Vernick, vice president of Insurance for the AAA Hoosier Motor Club. “Just like motorsports, AAA Insurance is an Indiana tradition.”

“We began our partnership with AAA Insurance last year and had tremendous success working with them in the promotion of our event and their products,” stated Ron Anderson, general manager of O’Reilly Raceway Park. “With AAA Insurance as the title rights sponsor we will be able to create new and exciting money saving offers for our patrons and AAA members.”

SpeedFest kicks off on July 23rd with the USAC Silver Crown and Midget Series race. The AAA Insurance 200 takes place on Friday. The weekend concludes with the 28th annual Kroger 200, benefiting Riley Hospital for Children, NASCAR Nationwide Series race on July 25th. Tickets are on sale for all three events and can be purchased at any Ticketmaster outlet, by calling 1-800-884-6472 or at the O’Reilly Raceway Park ticket office.

AAA Hoosier Motor Club is a fully tax-paying, not-for-profit corporation that offers a wide range of services. The 405,000-member affiliate of the American Automobile Association (AAA) works for the improvement of motoring and traveling conditions within its 50-county Indiana territory. AAA is the largest motoring and traveling organization in the world with more than 51 million members; and AAA Insurance has been protecting the cars, homes, and financial security of Hoosiers for more than 80 years.

O’Reilly Raceway Park is now on many social media web sites. To find our pages on MySpace, Facebook and Flickr search O’Reilly Raceway Park.

One of five drag racing facilities owned and operated by the National Hot Rod Association, O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis was built in 1960 and has presented organized racing events since 1961. From March through October, the facility hosts more than 120 dates of racing on three tracks, a quarter-mile drag strip, a .686-mile paved oval and a 2.5-mile road course. Home to drag racing’s biggest event, the NHRA U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend, the drag strip runs more than 50 days of point-to-point action, from national events to street legal community programs. The oval track draws racing’s biggest events, including annual visits from the NASCAR Nationwide, NASCAR Camping World Series and annual USAC races. The road course provides a home for several racing sanctions, such as SCCA, while providing an ideal resource for driving schools, corporate outings and open-road tests for professional drivers. http://www.whowon.com

Monday, May 18, 2009

Woman sentenced for draining $1.3 million from E. Providence title-insurance firm

By W. Zachary Malinowski

Journal Staff Writer

An emotionally charged Angela Raposo stood before the court Friday and blamed her addiction to painkillers for her felonious ways.

Raposo, in loud halting sobs, told U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith that dependence on drugs was responsible for her looting more than $1.3 million from company accounts at her title-insurance firm in East Providence.

“I’m sorry, but sorry is not good enough,” Raposo said. “I’m a good person. I’m a good mother. I just messed up.”

Smith wasn’t satisfied. He felt that Raposo, who had pleaded guilty to wire fraud, was too quick to blame her descent on drugs. He wanted to know why no one in her close-knit family from Riverside didn’t notice her reckless spending on houses, cars, jewelry and vacations.

“There was $1.3 million wandering through the family coffers,” Smith said. “Did anybody ask, ‘Where are the cars and homes coming from?’ ”

Ralph E. Chiodo, Raposo’s lawyer, said her parents never bothered to ask.

In the end, Smith did show compassion for Raposo, 33, who has a 7-year-old daughter. Instead of imposing a sentence of 41 months, Smith gave her break and sent her to prison for two years. He rebuffed Chiodo’s suggestion that she serve her time in home confinement.

“I think if you spend some time in prison, you’ll understand the seriousness of this offense,” he said. “I do want to get you back to your family. I hope that you will see the light when you get out.”

Smith also said that the sooner Raposo returns to work, the sooner she can begin repaying more than $1.2 million in restitution to Stewart Title Guaranty Co. Raposo’s firm, Title America Closing Services LLC, was a limited agent that issued title-insurance policies and acted as Stewart Title’s mortgage transfer agent.

The FBI launched an investigation into the missing money in April 2007 amid allegations that Raposo and her husband, Marco Raposo, might have emptied more than $800,000 from client accounts at Title America, which was located in a shopping plaza at 855 Waterman Ave.

Federal prosecutors cleared Marco Raposo of any wrongdoing.

At a plea hearing last November, Andrew J. Reich, an assistant U.S. Attorney, told the court that the government could prove that between February 2006 and February 2007, Raposo wrote checks and used a personal debit card against her firm’s escrow account to pay for a variety of personal expenses. Those expenses included mortgage payments, residential utility bills, hair salon fees, cosmetics, clothing, personal trips, a car and payments to relatives.

The proceeds from real-estate deals were deposited into an escrow account and they were supposed to be used for disbursement for real-estate closings, primarily to pay off existing mortgages.

As the underwriter, Stewart Title had to pay off mortgages totaling more than $1.3 million from the Raposos’ mortgage and four others including one in Richmond and another in Brea, Calif.

Yesterday, Raposo told the court that she got hooked on painkillers after undergoing a knee operation several years ago. She said that she was taking as many as “60 pills a night,” and decided to undergo drug treatment after she crashed her car head-on into a truck.

Smith, the sentencing judge, was troubled with Raposo’s crime, which he said was driven by greed. He also was concerned about her history of “deceit,” that included separate incidents where she posed as a lawyer and a police officer. read More

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wayne County proposes title insurance firm to offer competition

Wayne County Register of Deeds Bernard Youngblood said Tuesday that homebuyers need a break from what he called overpriced title insurance -- and he thinks he's found a way to give it to them. Appearing before the Wayne County Commission's Government Operations Committee Tuesday, Youngblood proposed that the county create its own government-run title insurance firm to compete with private title insurers to drive down insurance rates.

Homebuyers and mortgage borrowers buy title insurance during a real estate closing to ensure that the property in question has a clean title, free of liens and other claims.

Youngblood said that on a home selling for $146,000 in Wayne County, title insurance fees, which include a closing fee and title policies for both the new owner and the mortgage lender, could run $1,400.

The government-run firm would charge $600 for the same coverage, he said.
www.freep.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Complex title saga still plagues lot in east Aspen

More than three years after purchasing a lot in Aspen’s east end, Nina Zale decided to vent her frustrations over not being able to build on it with a banner reading, “Please let us build our home!”

The banner is prominently mounted on the lot’s original retaining wall, made of railroad ties and stone, on the back of Nina and her husband Milton’s 6,000-square-foot-lot on the south end of Park Avenue.

A protracted lawsuit against the Zales, by neighbors on Midland Avenue, a series of legal settlements by previous owners, and a mystery surrounding missing information in the Zales’ title when they bought the lot, have kept them from building the home they plan to retire in.

The Midland neighbors, Colleen Grosz and Tim and Marjorie Rodell, say they’re just trying to enforce restrictions placed on the Promontory Subdivision, which was developed by Fritz Benedict in the 1950s. And they say that the Zales’ planned home would violate multiple restrictions designed to protect neighbors’ views and privacy.

But after three years of communicating through their lawyers and frustrated by mounting legal bills, the neighbors have begun talks in an attempt to come to some kind of settlement. The real impediment, however, say the Zales, is their title company, Stewart Title, which is dragging things out and insisting on going to trial.

So after three years, three different versions of the lawsuit, two aborted trials and well over 100 legal items filed by the various parties, a resolution on the issue still seems distant, as a new trial date has yet to be set.

“We’re stuck with an expensive pile of dirt,” said Nina Zale. “We’re renting right down the block so every day I get to see my lot. And it’s costing us a fortune.”

The Zales’ side

It all started very innocently, at least according to the Zales, in November 2005, when they bought a lot at 190 Park Ave. for $1.7 million.

The Promontory Subdivision had been developed by revered local architect Fritz Benedict in the 1950s, and since the lots were rather small, homesites were designed to be built on in such a way to try to ensure views and privacy for their owners. Most lots, for example, have a 20-foot height limit, while the city of Aspen’s height limit is 25 feet.

Some lots have further restrictions, and the Zales’ lot, over the years, accumulated its fair share of them. Nothing can be built within 15 feet of its eastern boundary, for example, and the dogwood hedge between the Zales, Rodells and Grosz properties cannot go higher than 4 feet.

But there’s one further restriction that lies at the heart of the issue: Only a one-story home can be built on the lot. A prior owner of the Zale lot, who also owned an adjacent lot, added the stipulation in 1973 to ensure his view would be protected when he sold off the neighboring property.

The problem is, according to the Zales, they never knew about that restriction and it wasn’t on any documents when they took title.

The one-story restriction, in fact, wasn’t even mentioned in the first lawsuit filing in November 2006. It was reportedly found by one of the plaintiff’s attorneys and added in the second amended complaint filed in February 2007. A third amended complaint, filed in January 2008, added all the neighbors in the Promontory subdivision as defendants.

“We wouldn’t have bought that lot if we knew there was a one-story restriction,” said Nina Zale.

A one-story house on that lot, she said, would limit them to a 2,000-square-foot house, which would be inadequate for the couple and their visiting five children and grandchildren.

Judith Bregman, an attorney with Stewart Title in Denver, said she could not comment on pending litigation and would not confirm any details on the company’s involvement in the suit.

The neighbors’ view

Even though they’re negotiating now, the Zales’ would-be neighbors contend the new lot owners should have done a little more homework before buying the lot.

“When this all started we sent notices to the Zales, the city and the Realtors to let them know about the restrictions on the property,” said Marjorie Rodell, who lives at 201 Midland. “And when I looked at the plans I was horrified.”

The Zales’ home would rise 14 feet above the dogwood hedge, said Colleen Grosz, almost completely obscuring her now unimpeded view of Aspen Mountain and intruding on her privacy with windows looking into her townhome at 211 Midland.

The Grosz and Rodell homes, though mere feet apart, were built at such an angle to each other that neither can look into each other’s windows, and both have a view toward the mountain. The Zale lot sits lower in elevation, which is why a single-story home could be hidden from the neighbors’ view, depending on roof height and massing.

“It’s a cute little subdivision,” said Grosz. “We’re really tight, we’re cramped but everybody feels like they have their own space.”

Grosz said she warned Milton Zale of the restrictions on his lot, but the Zales acquired the property, then obtained a building permit, knocking down the existing home there and beginning excavation.

“The point is they knew what they were getting into and they did it anyway,” Marjorie Rodell said. “They want to build a house twice the size of ours on a lot half the size.”

Beyond the impact on their homes, the restrictions would go away if not enforced by the neighbors, since the rules were set by the neighborhood rather than the city, which is powerless in this case.

“If we don’t enforce it, we give it up,” said Grosz. “This is not how I choose to spend my time or money.”

A tit for tat on the title

The Zales, who took about a year off from dealing with the lot issue when Nina was diagnosed with and fighting breast cancer, ultimately redesigned their home last fall. Their architect redesigned the roof and lowered it to the 20-foot limit, Nina said. A 4,500-square-foot, three-story home (including a basement and garage), could be built on the site, according to their architect, Rally Dupps. But in the redesign, they’ve lost all the money they spent on designs and permits for the first, larger home.

And they won’t budge on the one-story restriction.

“You can’t, it’s virtually impossible to build a one-story house on that lot that makes economic sense,” said Milton Zale.

The Zales argue that they bought title insurance to protect against just such an occurrence: something that wasn’t disclosed in the sale documents that ended up clouding their title. Again, Stewart Title declined comment.

“We have title insurance but can’t collect; it’s like having life insurance, and somebody dies and they don’t want to pay,” said Milton.

An appraisal the Zales commissioned determined that the lot is worth $1.4 million with the one-story restriction — $300,000 less than they paid for it in late 2005 — and $2.6 million without the one-story restriction.

In a series of letters between the Zales’ attorney and Stewart Title’s Bregman in the last few months, the Zales asked Stewart Title to pay them $1.5 million to settle the clouded claim. That’s the decreased property value, plus various architect fees, permit fees and contractor payments the Zales made before they found out about the one-story restriction.

Stewart Title responded in January by saying they were commissioning their own appraisal, and defending the claim. In February, the Zales’ attorney reiterated the need to settle the claim, “given the economic climate,” and suggested Stewart was dragging its feet.

According to Milton Zale, who is a real estate attorney, the title company has every right to wait for a trial, where they have a chance of winning, rather than settle.

“They’re not acting in good faith but they are acting within their legal rights,” he said.

In the meantime, the Zales say they can’t sell the lot, given the lawsuit hanging over it. And the lawsuit itself doesn’t appear to be moving toward resolution quickly.

“I think the problem is they bought the lot knowing about the height restriction and settlement agreement,” said Colleen Grosz, the Midland neighbor. “The title company is saying, ‘Your house violates all those other restrictions, so the only restriction we’re responsible for is the one story.’ They saw our lawsuit which was about much more than the one story, and they’re looking at all the other parts.

“I think they’re stuck because it shouldn’t have gone this far,” she added. “We should have settled by now.”

“Everybody’s getting tired of this,” said Milton Zale, whose wife added, “It could go on forever.” lutz@aspendailynews.com source

Monday, March 30, 2009

Old Republic's Title Insurance Subsidiary Expands Reinsurance Assumed Relationship With Attorneys' Title Insurance Fund, Inc.

Old Republic International Corporation (NYSE: ORI), today, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company (Old Republic) and Attorneys' Title Insurance Fund, Inc., (The Fund) announced an amendment of their long-standing Reinsurance Agreement. The Agreement provides for the issuance of an Old Republic Reinsurance Assumption Certificate to be issued automatically with all Fund policies issued on or after March 26, 2009. As an organization of 6000 real estate attorney members, The Fund's mission to protect the public in real estate transactions is more relevant than ever. In the face of challenges to the entire title insurance industry, The Fund is strengthening its Reinsurance Agreement with Old Republic to ensure that protection. For the latest five year period the Fund's annual title premium production has averaged approximately $385 million.

About Old Republic

Chicago-based Old Republic International Corporation is an insurance holding company whose subsidiaries market, underwrite and provide risk management services for a wide variety of coverages primarily in the property and liability, mortgage guaranty, and title insurance fields. One of the nation's 50 largest publicly owned insurance organizations, Old Republic has assets of approximately $13.2 billion and shareholders' equity of $3.7 billion or $15.91 per share. Its current stock market valuation is approximately $2.6 billion, or $10.86 per share.

For the latest news releases and other corporate documents on Old Republic International, visit www.oldrepublic.com

SOURCE Old Republic International Corporation

http://www.oldrepublic.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cybersoft Selects Technology Partner for Title Insurance Outsourcing Market

SAN FRANCISCO, March 18, 2009 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ ----Cybersoft, Inc., an established Business Process Outsourcing ("BPO") provider to many strategic industries, announced today that it has selected CentRealTech, Inc. as its technology partner to provide Cybersoft with a significant advantage in their Best Shore Methodology for outsourcing to the Title Insurance Industry. Cybersoft is using the One Click System from CentRealTech as the key technology component to their onshore/offshore title production offering. Cybersoft has also taken advantage of the deep title industry experience provided by CentRealTech for training and support of Cybersoft's experienced and well educated BPO staff.

The combination of the resources within Cybersoft, along with the continuing support of CentRealTech as their title industry expert, will allow Cybersoft to provide more than just a very capable solution to the title industry; it will allow Cybersoft to far exceed their customers' expectations. "We have found that the One Click System is very easy to use and its feature set is so robust that processing title products quickly and effectively has become second nature for our staff," said Dan Guerrero, President and CEO of Cybersoft. "The wealth of experience that CentRealTech has brought to the process, along with its excellent training and support has certainly been a huge benefit to Cybersoft - one that we will continue to take advantage of as part of our Best Shore Methodology."

CentRealTech's One Click System is the only single seat, automated offering for the Title Production Process, that is available today as a Software as a Service application, accessed using any web browser. The application makes it easy for the user to automatically retrieve pertinent documents, maps, and assessment information within minutes. Search files may be submitted individually or in large batches, and every file is "simultaneously" processed, rather than sequentially. With the One Click System, the user can generate title products in a matter of minutes that are ready for final review by the appropriate title company personnel.

"We are very proud that Cybersoft has selected our system as their technology solution for their Title Industry offering. Cybersoft is a world class organization and a leading BPO provider," said Robert Matanane, President and CEO of CentRealTech. "We were very impressed by the depth of experience their staff commands and how quickly they captured the base of knowledge required to quickly and accurately process title transactions using our system. The title production process requires a very unique skill set and level of experience - Cybersoft's staff has what it takes."

Cybersoft has been providing their outsourcing expertise for over 20 years utilizing evolving technologies and human resources that specialize in assuming complex processes and tasks for customers. Cybersoft has more than one thousand full time college educated, English speaking employees. Cybersoft has supplemented their highly motivated pool of talent with a CentRealTech technology and consulting relationship to ensure that a Best Shore solution is provided to their new Title Insurance Industry customers.

About Cybersoft, Inc.

Cybersoft, Inc. is a Business Process Outsourcing company that utilizes Best Shore Methodology to provide services to many strategic industries, including Title Insurance, Legal, Health Care, Property Insurance, and others. Cybersoft leverages their key resources to provide appropriate solutions to their customers that maximize cost savings, deliver excellent services and products, and ensure overall best performance. Cybersoft is a privately held company headquartered in San Francisco, CA with operations in Manila and Beijing that specializes in providing Best Shore Services - not just offshore services.

This press release was issued through 24-7PressRelease.com. For further information, visit http://www.24-7pressrelease.com

SOURCE Cybersoft, Inc.

http://www.cybersoftbpo.com source

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Advantage Title Launches While Also Unveiling Industry-Best Online Resource for Title Insurance and Escrow Services

New Title Insurance Company, Employing Title365™, Delivers Industry-Changing Combination of Centralized Product Fulfillment, Faster Turnaround of Title, Escrow, and Default Services, and Tomorrow’s Technology Today

IRVINE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Founded by a group of leading settlement service veterans and technology innovators, Advantage Title, the most technologically advanced nationwide provider of title insurance, settlement, and default services, has brought to market Title365, a highly integrated and extremely user-friendly online transaction management tool for real estate related services. Operating as an underwritten title agent, Advantage Title employs a refreshingly efficient centralized processing and fulfillment model that stands in stark contrast to the technology-stagnant, paper-intensive systems and time-intensive, manual services commonplace to large, decentralized competitors.

Residential real estate brokers, mortgage and financial institutions, asset managers and commercial and independent escrows can obtain nationwide traditional title insurance, escrow and closing services, and default services from Advantage Title which currently has corporate operations in Southern California. Title insurance policies from Advantage Title are underwritten by Stewart Title Guaranty Company and First American Title Insurance Company, two of the country’s largest underwriters.

"In my mind, Advantage Title is simply the best in the business. None of our competitors can match the kind of value proposition, seasoned company management, and centralized, customer-centric service approach delivered by our organization,” said Michael Tafoya, CEO for Advantage Title. “Customers old and new are already taking notice; not only because we’ve amassed an enviable team of the industry’s most knowledgeable and reliable professionals, but also because they recognize the superiority of Title365 and how it truly changes the whole delivery and communication process of real estate-related settlement services online. In short, we’re leaving the competition with a lot of catching up to do.”

Launched March 3, 2009 at www.Title365.com, Title365 from Advantage Title delivers the ultimate in web-centric transaction management to effectively facilitate the ordering of real estate-related services. From instantly opening orders, to obtaining documents, loan transaction history, real-time status reports and impressively thorough sales comparables, to utilizing time-saving communication tools and industry-best mapping technologies, Title365 provides an unparalleled level of online convenience, intuitive functionality and solid security for title, escrow and default services.

The technologists behind Title365 introduced the transaction management standard several years ago by which all others were judged. Today, with the launch of their significantly improved creation, Title365, the Advantage Title team has strategically reanalyzed the ever-changing procurement and management processes critical to leading real estate and lending professionals and implemented an exciting offering that employs the very latest technology, functionality and site usability features.

Streamlined Transaction Process and Online Document Availability

Title365 enables users to be the beneficiaries of communication and delivery enhancements, such as the ability to obtain orders in real time, which provides customers with the optimized capacity to receive actual order numbers online instantly and via email as soon as they are generated so that seamless administration of the transaction can immediately begin. Unlike other solutions brought to market, Title365 is integrated into the backend production system of Advantage Title which eliminates any double data entry and gives customers a view into the transaction while eliminating errors. A critical component underscoring client service and operational efficiency, Title365 matches the workflow of customers to allow multiple participants within the transaction the ability to view all transactions.

Unlike many online offerings, Title365 enables users to enter information directly into the system and provides the ability to immediately obtain service-related documents online, empowering customers to quickly secure available documents as soon as they are completed. The reduction in the transfer of paper results in a more eco-friendly, timely, and cost-effective alternative in an industry known for being paper-intensive.

Beneficial Features and Tools

With just a click of a mouse, visitors will have access to Title365’s clean interface, created to simplify adoption by users. Each Title365 user has a unique, customizable Title365 Dashboard, containing a list of recent transactions, recently viewed properties, quick links to major features of the site, and industry news, which are among a wide array of benefits-delivering features available to keep users informed. Boasting a more intuitive experience than other offerings, Title365 provides quicker access to recently viewed properties, searches, and transactions and affords users the opportunity to link directly to the new order process while conducting property research, thus saving time, raising efficiency and ensuring a truly easy-to-use experience.

Having access to up-to-date, complete property research data is critical to starting a new transaction for real estate industry professionals and empowers all parties with the information needed for internal efficiencies. Powerful property research tools abound within Title365 that harness the most accurate and thorough data available. Extensive property details, including characteristics, ownership, complete sale and loan history as well as tax and assessment information, are instantly available. Also, highly advantageous to customers, expansive property summaries, detailed sales comparables and extensive market analysis can be obtained instantly online within Title365, ideal for lenders, listing agents, real estate professionals and consumers looking for a more complete financial picture. Parcel maps and recorded document images can be obtained via both standard and advanced search parameters.

Advantage Title is also providing Title365 customers with integrated data from relevant, third-party web destinations visited most often by professionals and consumers alike, such as Zillow®. The site also boasts powerful tools and aerial imagery integration for a more complete, realistic view of the issues and dynamics relating to a neighborhood or region where a transaction property is located. This high-resolution visual content has been married with detailed property research ideal for presentations, property showcasing and supplementation of plat maps and paper-based property data so that users can accurately establish the correct property for which to open an order. Mortgage professionals can instantaneously determine property value and parcel shape data for realistic, accurate valuation.

A sophisticated communication mechanism provides the customer with a single point of entry to view all transactions currently in the pipeline as well as the ability to create a paperless file on each transaction. What’s more, Title365 will soon deliver an optional consumer view into the transaction, solving the issue of clients wanting to be informed as to the status of their transaction while also eliminating status calls to all involved parties that could breed inefficiency and delay the transaction process.

The site also includes an extensive online resource of title insurance-related information, tools and industry news to assist consumers in feeling prepared and informed during the course of their real estate transaction. For more information about Title365, please visit www.title365.com.

The founders of Advantage Title offer a combined 131 years of experience in title insurance, settlement services and technology arenas. In addition to Mr. Tafoya, the founding management team includes Peter Derbonne, president and COO; Peter Bowman, co-CIO & senior vice president, strategy & innovation and Peter Richter, co-CIO & senior vice president, software engineering. As well, the highly experienced team of Advantage Title County Managers has held senior-level executive positions with national title companies and, on average, boast three decades of expertise.

About Advantage Title

Advantage Title, using the Title365 platform, is the most technologically advanced nationwide provider of title insurance and settlement services. The company, located throughout Southern California, serves residential real estate brokers, mortgage and financial institutions, asset managers and commercial and independent escrows with traditional title insurance, escrow and national closing services, default services, and diverse technology solutions. Our unique methodologies and nimble, centralized product fulfillment model delivers superior value and faster turnaround times while measurably improving our client’s business performance. Title policies are underwritten by Stewart Title Guaranty Company and First American Title Insurance Company, two of the country’s largest underwriters.

Title365 is a registered trademark of Advantage Title, Inc. source

Contacts

Richter Communications
Jennifer Richter
805-294-9095
jennifer_richter@msn.com

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Free: Real Estate & Title Insurance Trends

Distressed Owner Transactions: Common Questions

Thomas A. Glatthaar, senior vice president and senior underwriting counsel with Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, writes that for a while there it seemed like the real estate market in the New York metropolitan area was going to fly high forever, but it teetered with the economy in the early to middle parts of 2008, and then slid precipitously by the end of the summer. Now, he laments, the good times seem like long ago.

Buying More Than the Building

Paul Salvatore, a partner at Proskauer Rose, and Brian Rauch, a senior associate at the firm, write that by carefully reviewing labor and employment issues when conducting pre-purchase due diligence, a purchaser can avoid significant liabilities and costs related to the purchase of a building. By dealing with these issues before a sale is completed, they advise, a purchaser can ensure that any potential liabilities are reflected in the purchase agreement and that it is fully prepared for owning and/or managing the building.

The World of 'Green' Impacts Commercial Leasing

Peter S. Britell, a partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf, writes: The law of green buildings now clearly impacts commercial leasing, affecting pre-existing leases and new leases, and also impacting how tenants and landlords negotiate basic lease terms, remedies, and indemnities. For a new lease, the green provisions will depend on the wishes and relative bargaining power of the parties. In the case of a pre-existing lease, however, the result will depend on pre-existing lease terms, to which both landlords and tenants must devote serious attention.

Parsing the New Vapor Intrusion Tenant Notification Law

Adam M. Meek and Robert G. Koen, partners at DLA Piper US, write that although the concept of the new law requiring landlords to provide their tenants complete disclosure of data regarding vapor intrusion conditions is a good one, the Department of Environmental Conservation has to date offered no formal interpretive guidance on the applicability of the law or how it will be enforced, and there are numerous undefined terms and ambiguous provisions in the statute that have created confusion and challenges for the regulated community members and their advisors. source

Thursday, March 5, 2009

“Outside sales" exemption applies to title insurance promotional work

A marketing executive, whose promotional work was credited with the sale of title insurance to clients, was an exempt employee under the Fair Labor Standard Act’s (FLSA) "outside sales" exemption and, therefore, not entitled to overtime compensation, the Eleventh Circuit ruled in affirming a decision by a federal district court in Florida.

The plaintiff was hired by the insurance company as a marketing executive due, in large part, to her prior career in selling title insurance. Although she initially was paid a weekly wage, and later suggested that she be paid on a commission basis—receiving a 50% commission on clients who closed with the insurance company—plaintiff claimed that she often worked more than 40 hours per week, but was never compensated for overtime.

At issue was the definition of “promotional work,” which may or may not be exempt outside sales work, depending on the circumstances under which it is performed. Despite the plaintiff’s contention on appeal that her primary duty consisted of "stimulating sales," rather than actually making sales of title insurance—"promotional work" that she claimed was non-exempt—her stated job description was "to provide the services for referring and closing title insurance companies."

However, the plaintiff received both credit and commission for the orders received, the appellate court noted, making a distinction between her role as "conduit" to the sale rather than one that paves the way for another salesperson to step in to make the final sale. Once the orders were obtained, the court concluded, the sale was complete.

(Gregory v First Title, 11thCir, 157 LC 35,535.)

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Monday, January 26, 2009

First American Title Insurance Company

First American Title Insurance Company, the largest title insurance company in the United States, is alleged in a Michigan lawsuit to be responsible for millions of dollars in losses sustained by Michigan businessman Isaiah Shafir. In a motion filed today in Oakland County Circuit Court, before the Hon. Wendy Potts, Mr. Shafir alleges that First American's agents participated in a fraudulent real estate scheme in an attempt to divest Mr. Shafir of title to 42 investment properties, with a value in the millions of dollars. Shafir seeks a ruling that First American is liable for its agents' conduct.

According to the motion, First American's agents, Simmons Title Company and Patriot Title Company, recorded a fraudulently obtained deed and issued false title policies concealing Mr. Shafir's interests in the properties. The suit alleges that Simmons Title and Patriot Title did this to assist a man named Randy Saylor to sell the properties, which did not belong to him, and to obtain fraudulent mortgages on the properties. Mr. Saylor is currently in the Kalamazoo County jail and when his deposition was taken in jail, he refused to answer pertinent questions and relied on the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

The suit alleges that, in 2003, Saylor obtained a facsimile copy of a deed to the 42 properties. The suit further alleges that he then conspired with Simmons Title and Patriot Title to sell these properties fraudulently and obtain mortgages. These title agencies issued title commitments and policies that did not disclose Saylor's lack of ownership of the properties, or several previous mortgages on the properties belonging to Mr. Shafir. According to the motion, Patriot Title also assisted Saylor by recording with the register of deeds the facsimile deed. Shafir alleges that First American failed to investigate or monitor its agents' activities. The motion claims, "First American's reckless conduct has allowed its agents to defraud people in the midst of a nationwide real estate crisis."

The motion asserts that First American had an obligation to properly investigate and supervise its agents. Gerard Mantese, the attorney for Mr. Shafir, stated, "Our motion explains, it is untenable for First American to deny responsibility for its agents' conduct."
source

Stetson’s Wilson named Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund Professor

Darryl C. Wilson, professor and co-director of the Institute for Caribbean Law and Policy at Stetson University of Law, has been named the Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund Professor of Law.

The three-year appointment begins in August, a release said.

The appointment allows for further integration of the academic aspects of property with practical issues addressed by the Fund, Wilson said in a statement.

Professor James J. Brown, the first law professor named to the position, will become the Fund’s professor emeritus.

The Fund promotes and facilitates real estate practices of its members as they protect the public, a release said.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Home property title insurance

Home property title insurance usually is required by the lender to protect the lender against loss resulting from claims by others. In some states, attorneys offer homeowner property title insurance as part of their services in examining and providing a title opinion. The attorney's fee may include the premium. In other states, a company or agent directly provides the title insurance. New house owners should be aware that the seller may not require the buyer, as a condition of the sale, to purchase this policy from any particular company. Usually, the lender will require a policy from a company that is acceptable to it. In most cases the new house owner can shop for and choose a policy that meets the lender's standards and their own personal satisfaction and price.

To save money on these types of policies, compare rates among various companies. The buyer should ask what services and limitations on coverage are provided under each homeowner property title insurance policy so that a knowledgeable decision can be made about coverage purchased at a higher rate that may be better for their needs. However, in many states, premium rates are established by the state and may not be negotiable.

If the buyer is purchasing a house that has changed hands within the last several years, they should be sure to ask the insuring company about a "reissue rate," which would be cheaper. Reissue rates are for a transfer of property with a short time of a purchase of a property.
source

Opting Out of Title Insurance

When attorney Mark Rutzick sold his home in Fairfax, Va., and bought a new one in nearby Oakton, he made what many might consider a risky move: He turned down title insurance. While lenders require borrowers to pay for the insurance that protects loans against unexpected liens and other claims, owners often have more leeway when it comes to insuring their own home equity.

Since Rutzick's new home had only two previous owners, he says, "The chances of a hidden grantor coming out of the woodwork and saying 'I own it and you don't' is so incredibly small, [title insurance] just seems unnecessary." He estimates he saved himself about $3,600 by not buying owner's title insurance.

While shaving a few thousand dollars off closing costs is tempting, many in the real estate industry recommend against it. Pam Hamrick, vice president of LendingTree.com, says she has seen customers without title insurance policies run into problems that are expensive to clear up. "It's like homeowner's or auto insurance. No one wants to pay for it, but when you need it, not having it is...
source

Monday, January 12, 2009

Choose title insurance firm carefully

Defendants in fence dispute feel abandoned.
It's important for buyers to have survey.
A court case wending its way through the judicial system underlines just how important it is for homebuyers to have a current survey and to choose a title insurance company very carefully.

In November, 1998, Susan and David purchased their house at an address, which I will call 2 Auckland Ave., Toronto.

Next door to the north is 4 Auckland, a house bought by Mir and Leda in September, 2001. The backyards of both properties are 5.71 meters (18.73 feet) deep from the house to the rear lot line. Separating the two backyards is a fence, which was built before either neighbour moved in.

One of the issues in the lawsuit brought by Susan and David is whether the fence is in the wrong position, and whose land it is on.

In a statement of claim issued last year, Susan and David claim that the division fence is not on the property line, but rather about 0.57 m (1.87 feet) onto the property owned by Mir and Leda.

(The case has not gone to trial, and none of the allegations of either party has been proved in court.)

The result is a strip of land almost 2 feet wide by almost 19 feet deep to which Mir and Leda have paper title, but which appears to be part of the backyard of their neighbours at 2 Auckland.

Susan and David are asking the court to declare that they have ownership of the strip of land because they and the previous owners of the house have had exclusive possession of the strip for more than 10 years.

Invoking the legal doctrine of possessory title, commonly known as squatter's rights, they claim that Mir and Leda no longer own the disputed strip because it was openly and exclusively occupied by the owners of 2 Auckland for more than 10 years.

Complicating matters is the fact that in 2001, Susan and David constructed a covered porch at the rear of their house, and part of it sits on the disputed strip.

In their defence, Mir and Leda deny that their neighbours have possessory rights to the strip and counterclaimed for trespass.

They say that when they bought 4 Auckland, they received a standard form "declaration of possession" from the previous owners, certifying that there were no known boundary disputes.
source

Questions about Titile insurance. What Is Title Insurance?

What Is Title Insurance?

Title insurance is protection against loss arising from problems connected to the title to your property.

Before you purchased your home, it may have gone through several ownership changes, and the land on which it stands went through many more. There may be a weak link at any point in that chain that could emerge to cause trouble. For example, someone along the way may have forged a signature in transferring title. Or there may be unpaid real estate taxes or other liens. Title insurance covers the insured party for any claims and legal fees that arise out of such problems.
Is Purchasing Title Insurance Obligatory?

It is if you need a mortgage, because all mortgage lenders require such protection for an amount equal to the loan. It lasts until the loan is repaid. As with mortgage insurance, it protects the lender but you pay the premium, which is a single-payment made upfront.
Does Title Insurance Do Anything For Me?

The required insurance protects the lender up to the amount of the mortgage, but it doesn’t protect your equity in the property. For that you need an owner’s title policy for the full value of the home. In many areas, sellers pay for owner policies as part of their obligation to deliver good title to the buyer. In other areas, borrowers must buy it as an add-on to the lender policy. It is advisable to do this because the additional cost above the cost of the lender policy is relatively small.
source

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Watch Out For "Junk" Mortgage Fees

For most people, buying real estate is an uncommon occurrence. Engaging in real estate transactions just once or twice in a lifetime provides little opportunity to become intimately familiar with the process. There are mountains of paperwork to sign, a confusing new vocabulary to deal with, and a host of fast-talking sales people - from real estate agents to mortgage brokers - who smile, point and tell you where to sign.

Somewhere in the mix of elation at purchasing a property and boredom from signing forms, it's easy to lose track of what you're paying for and how much you're spending. Aside from the amount of the mortgage, most of the other expenses get lumped into a category referred to as "closing costs". Paying attention to these costs can help you understand where your money is going and maybe even save you a few hundred dollars. Read on to learn more.

Closing Costs: What Are They?

The phrase "closing costs" is shorthand for the total cost of several dozen potential expenses associated with purchasing and financing real estate. These expenses can be categorized as "recurring" and "nonrecurring".

Recurring Costs

Recurring costs get paid not only at closing, but also on a monthly basis thereafter, and include real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, and, if you're putting less than 20% down, private mortgage insurance (PMI).

These expenses must be funded in advance at the time of purchase, which is done by putting them into an account so that they are available to cover the next year's obligations. This is known as putting the money in escrow. Depending on your closing date, it may also be necessary to prepay interest to cover your first few days or weeks in the home.

Nonrecurring Costs

Nonrecurring costs are also paid at closing. They may include:

* points

* an application fee (profit for the lender)

* a series of loan fees (that may include an origination fee, appraisal fee, credit report fee, tax service fee, underwriting fee, document preparation fee, wire transfer fee, office administration fees, etc.),

* a broker's service fee (if you are working with a mortgage broker)

* any lender-required home inspections (such as a pest inspection)

* the cost of a lender-required home appraisal (in which someone is paid to verify that the property is worth at least as much as the selling price)

Closing costs may also include:

* Federal Housing Administration (FHA) fees

* Veteran's Administration (VA) fees

* Rural Housing Service (RHS) fees associated with mortgages guaranteed by the government

* a flood determination fee to investigate whether the property is an area prone to flooding

* a land survey to verify the property's boundaries

* title charges (which may include a settlement fee, title search, title examination, closing service letter, deed preparation, notary fees, attorney's fees and title insurance).

A host of other miscellaneous costs may include a courier/delivery fee, endorsements, recording fee, transfer tax and optional home warranty.

How Much Do They Cost?

Fees vary widely based on the lender, the geographical location of the property and the price of the home. The Federal Reserve Board provides some general guidelines for some of the most common fees:

*Application Fee: $75 to $300 (including credit report for each applicant)

*Loan Origination: Fee 1-1.5% of loan amount

*Points: 0-3% of loan amount

*Appraisal Fee: $300 to $700

*Lender-Required Home Inspection: $175 to $350

*Private Mortgage Insurance: Up to 1.5% of loan amount to prepay first year

*FHA, VA, or RHS Fees: 1.5%, 1.25-2.0%, or 1.75%

*Homeowners Insurance: $300 to $1,000/yr. depending on home price

*Flood Determination Fee: $15 to $50

*Survey: $150 to $400

*Prepaid Interest: Varies based on loan amount, interest rate and number of days that must be paid ($300 to $750 is not unusual)

Source: Federal Reserve Board

Watch Out for the Garbage

"Garbage fees", also known as "junk fees", are tacked on to most mortgages. There is no way to completely avoid them, but you can often minimize them.

Look out for excessive processing and documentation fees in the following categories:

* Application fee

* Underwriting fee

* Mortgage rate lock fee

* Loan processing fee

* Broker rebate

If any of these fees seems to be unusually high, ask about them, as they can often be negotiated. This advice applies to other fees as well. If it looks funny, ask about it. Often, the mere act of questioning the fee will result in the fee being lowered or eliminated.

All-In-One Closing Cost Pricing

Realizing that consumers are overwhelmed by the fees and frustrated at the process of trying to determine whether the fees are fair, some lenders now offer "all-in-one" flat-rate fees that include all closing costs. The "all-in-one" terminology is used to describe other mortgage products as well, such as mortgages that are tied to checking accounts, so care must be taken when shopping for these products to purchase the one that applies strictly to mortgage closing costs without consideration to other banking relationships or products.

The Grand Total

As a general rule, you can expect to spend from 3-5% of the price of the property in closing costs.

Minimize the Pain

If the real estate market in your area is favorable to buyers, you may be able to ask the seller to pay closing costs. If that isn't an option, getting an all-in-one mortgage is probably the best way to minimize the feeling that you are being taken advantage of during the closing process. While you are still paying the fees, you won't need to despair over them one fee at a time.

Comparison shopping is another way to get comfortable with the process and get a better feel for the costs. Ask half a dozen lenders to provide good faith estimates and compare the results. This will help you learn the terminology and get a sense of the range of closing fees in your area. Once you choose a lender and have a good faith estimate in hand, save it. It will come in handy later.

Conclusion

The official form that includes a breakdown of all closing costs is called an HUD-1 form. You have a right to see the HUD-1 document 24 hours in advance of closing. Ask for it and compare it to the good faith estimate. If the numbers aren't reasonably close, ask questions.

By spending time to comparison shop and by carefully reviewing all documentation, you can minimize the expense and anxiety associated with the closing costs involved in purchasing real estate.
Source

Technical Trade Alerts on Surety & Title Insurance Stocks: PMI, ABK, RDN, MBI, ORI, FAF

Beacon Equity Research announces the release of Trade Alerts covering surety & title insurance stocks: HCP Inc. (NYSE: HCP), Ventas Inc. (NYSE: VTR), Health Care REIT Inc. (NYSE: HCN), Healthcare Realty Trust Inc. (NYSE: HR), Nationwide Health Properties Inc. (NYSE: NHP) and Omega Healthcare Investors Inc. (NYSE: OHI). In the Trade Alert, the author highlights PMI's announcement that Standard & Poor's left unchanged its ratings: "The PMI Group Inc. (PMI) shares soared nearly 20% yesterday to close at $2.70.

PMI, through its subsidiaries, provides a range of financial products for residential mortgages, public finance obligations and asset-backed securities. ... The company recently announced Standard & Poor's (S&P) left unchanged its ratings of the company's primary operating subsidiary PMI Mortgage Insurance Co., as well as PMI Mortgage Insurance Company Ltd. and the holding company's senior and subordinated debt ratings. Although ratings remain on CreditWatch Negative, PMI continues to be an eligible mortgage insurer with both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

The Trade Alert author also featured Ambac Financial's statement regarding expiration of confidentiality agreements:

"Ambac Financial Group Inc. (ABK) shares hit $1.61 in pre-market trading, up nearly 6% from yesterday's close. Ambac Financial, through its subsidiaries, provides financial guarantee products and other financial services to clients in the public and private sectors worldwide. ...

The company recently announced the expiration of confidentiality agreements between certain holders of bonds issued by Metronet Rail BCV (BCV) and Metronet Rail SSL (SSL) and AUK and Financial Security Assurance (UK) Limited. By the terms of these expired confidentiality agreements, AUK is required to issue this statement. A similar statement was issued by AUK April 29, 2008."

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